Being a Labour councillor I get to meet a lot of public sector workers. My mother spent her career as a public servant, teaching and undertaking social work. If there’s one thing you learn about public sector workers its that almost without exception they don’t do what they do for money, they do it because they care about society.
To get to the point we’re at where schools, hospitals and councils are struggling to recruit hasn’t come about easily. It reflects the value our system has chosen to put on public services. Our young people don’t care any less about the community than past generations, they simply struggle to believe they can last a career in fatally underfunded public services.
Unions, Labour MPs, even Tory Cabinet Ministers have all said that things can’t go on like this. I agree. One of the first things I did when Labour retook the council was to increase the Crawley Allowance, a flat rate amount given to every council employee whatever their level in the council. To my knowledge, Crawley currently has the most equal pay structure of any local authority.
There’s another reason I increased the Crawley Allowance and not base pay, and that’s because I could do it without breaking national pay bargaining. Whatever the current limitations of national bargaining, the process has historically delivered significant benefits to council workers and it’s not in their interests or the interests of local authorities that it ends.
We have now reached the limits of what we can deliver with allowances and other workarounds and we are increasingly struggling to recruit for crucial roles. It’s time for the pay cap to end, it’s our services which are on the line.